Twin Peaks – complete guide to the books

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The wait is almost over. Twin Peaks, the classic 90s television show is set to return on 21 May for a limited series run on the US channel, Showtime. It will air the following day on Sky Atlantic in the UK. The 18 episodes are each between one and two hours in length, and will account for the 26 years that have passed since Kyle McLaughlin’s Agent Cooper last graced our screens. The passage of time will play a big part in how the new episodes pan out.

Mark Frost, who created the show alongside David Lynch, released The Secret History of Twin Peaks last year. It’s a dossier aiming to fill that 26-year gap a little, and to generate some interest in the new programme. It’s going to be followed in October by The Final Dossier.

Here at Crime Fiction Lover we couldn’t be more excited about the momentous return of Twin Peaks. In anticipation of the new show, let’s take a look at Frost’s new release as well as all the other key books that have added to the Twin Peaks phenomenon over the intervening years. Not only will they get you hyped for the new episodes, but they’ll add new insight as we return to the town of Twin Peaks, Washington, after so much time.

Twin Peaks on TV
The television programme Twin Peaks quickly became not just a cult hit but a cultural phenomenon when it premiered in 1990. It ran for 30 episodes, spread over two seasons, and was cancelled 1991. The cinematic release, Twin Peaks: Walk Fire With Me followed in 1992. What director David Lynch and writer Mark Frost created was a crime drama surrounding the death of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, whose body is found wrapped in plastic in the woods. Who killed her?

It was like no other show before or since, but it has influenced countless crime programmes, films and books, as well as building up a worldwide cult following. Its non-sequitur storytelling, black humour and bizarre characters made Twin Peaks unique and it is considered one of the best TV dramas of all time.

The series mashed up various genres into a new form. Partly, it is a high school drama centered around the murder of homecoming queen, Laura Palmer. It looks at what effect her death has on the teenagers of Twin Peaks. Yet it is also partly a paranormal thriller, with elements of horror mixed in. There is a camp, small town dramedy feel to it, and it is also partly an over-the-top American soap opera. All of the elements combine to make a whole that remains unmatched on television. The show offers up a complete, immersive and seemingly endless world, one where ‘the owls are not what they seem’.

You can catch up on the original Twin Peaks by watching the DVD, or by streaming it on Amazon Video. But first, let’s catch up on those books…

The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (2016)

When the announcement came that Mark Frost and David Lynch would relaunch the series after almost three decades, fans wondered how they would account for the lost time. The creators confirmed that the show will take place in the present day. The Secret History of Twin Peak is Mark Frost’s attempt to bridge the gaps and provide a throughway between the series.

It’s billed as a novel but is really comprised of a found dossier of FBI documents presented by Gordon Cole, a character played by David Lynch himself, who was deaf and shouted everything. You find out in the early pages that Cole is presenting the information to Special Agent TP, whose name is omitted from the story until the end. As the reader, you become TP and get to sort through the material by proxy.

The book is broken up into quasi-chapters spanning time periods. The first pages reveal how the material inside the dossier has been compiled by someone who refers to themselves as The Archivist. TP presumes, in the margin notes, that The Archivist was once or still is a Twin Peaks resident, based on their intricate knowledge of town history and lore. It goes all the way back to the 19th-century Lewis and Clark Expedition, and there are journal entries, letters, excerpts from newspapers of the time, and pieces of analysis by the Archivist.

Lewis Meriwether‘s notes tell of an experience in the woods of Washington State that is phenomenal and otherworldly. The Archivist loosely connects Merriweather’s encounter with the supernatural elements of the television show.

Overall, The Secret History of Twin Peaks creates a greater context for the show. Frost connects the fictional town and the supernatural mysteries of its inhabitants to other historical events beyond Meriweather’s extraterrestrial encounter. There are sections that show a possible connection between phenomena at Twin Peaks and the UFO sightings at Roswell. There are links to the cults headed up by Aleister Crowley and L Ron Hubbard as well.

Intended to be vast in scope, The Secret History is actuality a bit hit and miss when you try and absorb it. Some of the documents are fun and interesting to ponder while others are less exciting. The book works best when providing backstory for many of the characters of the original show. We find out how Big Ed and Nadine ended up together. We learn about Dr Jacoby, Leland Palmer and others. A few characters from the original cast are killed off, presumably giving valid reasons why they won’t appear in the upcoming show.

The Secret History of Twin Peak is a must for diehards who enjoy labouring over the endless possibilities and theories the show presents.
Buy now on Amazon

In October, Mark Frost will be releasing Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, and that can be pre-ordered now on Amazon.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch (1990)

David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer Lynch is a successful writer and director in her own right. Her 2008 movie Surveillance is a must-see crime drama starring Bill Pullman as an FBI agent trying to solve a spree of horrible murders in the New Mexico desert. But before her career as a screenwriter and director, she penned the Secret Diary of Laura Palmer during the height of Twin Peaks fever.

The book is a physical version of the diary that Twin Peaks character Harold has in possession, and it offers insight into the life of the murdered girl. Much like the show itself, which had 35 million viewers when it first aired, The Secret Diary was a runaway success and hit the bestseller list. The book was re-issued digitally in 2011 with a new preface by Mark Frost, where he describes it as ‘another bright pane in the hall of mirrors’ that is the world of Twin Peaks.

It begins after Laura receives the diary as a present on her 12th birthday and starts writing in it. The passages are short and romp along as you’d expect. But the creepier elements of the show, the dark woods and the terrifying BOB (a supernatural entity that figures in the TV series) begin to creep in. BOB appears more and more in Laura’s breezy narrative. She ends a section with, “I hope BOB doesn’t come tonight.”

As you read, a sinister air hangs over the text creating tons of dramatic tension and sending chills up the spine. The presence of BOB is central to the Diary and if you’ve seen the show you’ll know just why it is important.

Many of the younger character appear in the book and The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer provides backstory for them, from Palmer’s perspective. Laura intersperses this with her own poetry, which offers cryptic clues about BOB’s true nature, and other aspects of her life leading up to her murder. The poems are realistic replicas of what a young girl might write and are well done, adding quite a bit to the book. It all feels very innocent, which makes the shadow of what will happen to Laura all the more gut-wrenching. You must read it, if you haven’t already.
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Wrapped in Plastic: Twin Peaks by Andy Burns (2015)

Andy Burns’ personal and heartfelt book about Twin Peaks is a history, analysis, and love letter to the show that took over TV in the early 90s. For those who weren’t there for the broadcast television phenomenon, Burns walks us through what it was like and explains the lasting impact Twin Peaks has had. The book is perfect for those looking to understand what it was like, or want a better understanding of Twin Peaks history.

The book opens with a short introduction contextualising the show, explaining what it meant for this show to arrive when it did and how it stands in relation to the TV hits of the last decade.

The earliest chapters provide backgrounds on Lynch and Frost, put the aesthetics of Twin Peaks in context, and explain how the programme came to be made. Then the author analyses everything from the opening credits to how certain iconic scenes came to be, also considering the cast and that haunting sound track. Burns explains the quirks of the show and if you’ve ever wondered why something appeared then this author is the man to ask. He answers many of those questions here.

The best bits of Wrapped In Plastic are the author’s take on Lynch’s use of doppelgängers as well as some of the other recurring themes and tropes. Burns is a strong writer and he is able to move from TV history to specific episodes and then back again without losing your interest. Lynch directed a cinematic release after the show ended, entitled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. This is covered with the author connecting the various threads between the two.

Wrapped in Plastic amounts to a crash course in the history of Twin Peaks covering all the episodes and sharing detail from various actors, directors and other sources. It’s definitely worthy of the programme itself.
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The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper by Scott Frost (1991)

This slim volume consists of transcriptions from Dale Cooper’s tape recorder. Starting in 1967, a when young Cooper receives the device for Christmas, we get a chronicled firsthand glimpse of the future FBI agent. It offers the chance to learn more about this important character and his life before Twin Peaks.

The sections on Cooper’s early work in the Bureau fill in a lot more background that is only alluded to in the show. Scott Frost uses the space to show us the events that shaped our hero’s life before his visit to Twin Peaks. The case of Teresa Banks, the one that predates but is linked to Laura Palmer’s, is given a fuller treatment here than in the programme. The passages are sharp and are consistent with the buoyant and loveable investigator we know from the show.

The book ends with Cooper learning about Laura Palmer’s case and he records himself saying: “There’s been a body found in Washington state, Diane. A young woman, wrapped in plastic. I’m headed for a little town called Twin Peaks.”

The Autobiography of Dale Cooper provides wonderful history on the programme’s central character. Cooper will appear in every episode of the new season, which makes this book a must, even though it can be hard to get hold of in print. If you can’t find it, try the 45-minute audiobook version. The audio is not as vast in scope as the print version, but picks up with Coop engaging Diane and doing his FBI work.
Buy second hand on Amazon

Welcome to Twin Peaks: A Complete Guide to Who’s Who & What’s What by Scott Knickelbine (1990)

Here we have a user’s guide to characters, the first eight episodes, and David Lynch, along with other insider information. This book would have been the browser’s answer in the pre-internet world of 1990, published as it was before websites existed. It provides the nuts and bolts information viewers would have craved at the time.

Today this complete guide offers little that can be found elsewhere, but it is nevertheless a fun and nostalgic piece of Twin Peaks history. The book is hard to find, but if you can get your hands on it, Welcome to Twin Peaks is worth a look. Be sure to take the Logjam Quiz at the end.
Buy second hand on Amazon

Twin Peaks: An Access Guide by David Lynch and Mark Frost (1991)

This volume is a mock directory for the town of Twin Peaks, published in 1991. The book takes you on a tour of the town much like a Lonely Planet guidebook. There is some overlap between Twin Peaks: An Access Guide and the Secret History (above). There are some clues scattered through the book and even though it doesn’t read like a straight novel, it is a fun piece of the Twin Peaks puzzle.

One of the more fun and exciting aspects of the book is the map in the back.

The Access Guide is a bit more than just piece of memorabilia from the time of the show. Like many books we’ve looked at (Laura Palmer’s Diary, The Secret History, and Cooper’s Autobiography) The Guide gives you artifacts that make you feel like a real visitor to the fictional town. The breaking of the fourth wall in all of these materials strengthens the mystery and invites you deeper into this strange and wonderful world.
Buy second hand on Amazon

Damn Fine Cherry Pie And Other Recipes from TV’s Twin Peaks by Lindsey Bowden (2016)

Author Lindsey Bowden began to compile this cookbook to commemorate of the 20th anniversary of the show. Bowden was, at the time, a producer in the film and theatre industry. She became obsessed with Twin Peaks, and admits to being deeply in love with it in her introduction. She says each time she watched she got hungry because of the way food figures so heavily in the world David Lynch depicted. And thence the idea was born to concoct recipes based on those food items presented.

The result is indeed a ‘damn fine’ selection of recipes for everything from Norma’s Cherry Pie to cocktails and fish suppers, along with tons of other dishes inspired by characters and locations.

Bowden breaks it up into meal-based sections: breakfast, lunch, dinner, donuts and pastries. But she also creates recipe categories based on locations in the fictional town such as White Lodge Family Dining, and the Black Lodge Supper Club. Much of the food is inspired by but did not not feature in the actual show. Of course, the book includes Shelly Johnson’s cherry pie recipe, a dessert she makes when Norma’s not around.

Some choice recipes from the book include:

Coffee, Pastries & Donuts: Coffee with Mexican Chihuahua Churros
Double R Diner Menu: Percolate Fish Supper
Family Meals: Betty Brigg’s Meatloaf and Doc Hayward’s Diet Lasagna
Meals on Wheels Program: Mrs. Tremond’s Creamed Corn Chowder
Black Lodge Supper Club: Doctor Jacobi’s Secret Coconut Hawaiian Stew
Cocktails: Audrey Horne’s Cherry Twist

If you are a Twin Peaks fan, be sure to have a black cup of coffee and a delicious piece of cherry pie ready for the return. We know we will.

Buy now on Amazon

33 ⅓ Soundtrack From Twin Peaks by Clare Nina Norelli (2017)

The 33 ⅓ series has taken on scores of groundbreaking albums, everything from Nirvana’s Nevermind to Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, and even Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk about Love. Add the famous Twin Peaks soundtrack to the list with Clare Nina Norelli’s publication. It looks at the iconic music that, according to this volume, brought “…the aesthetic of arthouse cinema to prime time.”

The soundtrack was composed by Angelo Badalamenti, a long time friend and collaborator of David Lynch. The music of the show is simultaneously cool, jazzy, surreal and, at times, downright creepy. Badalamenti’s album sold its way onto the Billboard charts and the title theme to the show won a Grammy in 1991.

Here’s Badalamenti explaining the collaborative and improvisational process the composer and Lynch used to create the music.

If you’ve ever wondered how these songs were structured, how they came to be, or are just interested in music, then this book is definitely worth a read. Badalamenti has composed the music for the upcoming series too and if the original soundtrack’s success is any indication we’ll be hearing a lot of him in the coming year.
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The upcoming series

All of the books we have looked at are a ‘damn fine’ way to gear up for the 2017 series of Twin Peaks. You really can’t go wrong diving into the deep, wonderful, surreal and murderous world of Twin Peaks. As Laura Palmer says to agent Cooper in the otherworldly Red Room in the final episode of the series: “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”

Well, the wait is nearly over. And to quote Agent Cooper, “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”

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